Friday, April 30, 2010

Safety Jones

If you're "Jones-"ing on some safety talk, how about trying this video on Chad. That's Chad Jones, the Giants' third-round safety from LSU who showed some decent coverage skills in today's opening practice of rookie minicamp.

Here, Jones talks about various subjects, including why he decided to reject the Astros' offer to play baseball as he came out of high school. Jones, by the way, proclaimed himself more of an outfielder than a pitcher, despite being able to throw a 90-plus MPH fastball.

The Giants just need to pray he can cover centerfield.


EP

Fewell-ing The Rooks

For all intents and purposes, today was Perry Fewell's live introduction not only to the Giants' rookies, but to the area media as well. They had no trouble spotting him on the field, as he was the one yelling and waving his arms as he encouraged the youngsters to follow his directions.

Here's the transcript of our interview with the new defensive coordinator, who announced that, given his druthers, he'll call the games from the field "because that's where the game is played." He said he and Tom Coughlin have discussed it and it looks as though he'll coach from down there.

As for the Giants' dueling defensive ends, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka, who have both gone on record (one more vocally than the other) as wanting to start, Fewell had a simple solution. "Prove it."

Here's the rest of what Fewell said.

Q: You made your impact known on your first day at Giants camp, yelling and screaming on the field:

A: Well, hey, that’s just ball. I’m excited about being here and I’m excited about ball starting. We’re able to get out of the meeting room and coach football. So yeah, it’ll hold up. It’ll get better.

Q: Is that your style, to be aggressive on the field toward the players and encourage them a lot vocally along the way?

A: Yes. I mean I enjoy and am passionate about the game. I enjoy communicating with the players. I’m excited about football. When they make a good play, I get excited about that. When they make a bad play, I encourage them to make a better play. That’s just the way I coach football.

Q: From what you’ve seen, players respond to that and feed off the energy a little bit?

A: Yeah, I hope so. I’ve been doing this for some time now and that’s just me. That’s my style.
Q: What do you think having the interim head coaching position in Buffalo last year has taught you?

A: I see the big picture more. When I was just the defensive coordinator, I was definitely just concerned about the defense but I didn’t see the big picture. So I’m able to see, ‘Hey, stay off the receiver (in practice) because that guy is really important.’ I used to just bang him and run into him and say, ‘Hey, it’s a defensive mentality’. I look at special teams and I see guys in special teams roles that can help our football team and I fight for those guys. ‘Hey, he’s a good football player and he’s a special teams guy.’ So I look at it in the big picture now.

Q: All these guys are new to you, but when you get five out of seven draft picks on the defense, that’s not a bad start:

A: No, that’s not a bad way to start. Those guys were ranked on our board and we felt good about where they fell in the draft. We are going to see if they’re worthy of those picks.
Q: The other point of that could be if you get five picks that the defense wasn’t as good last year:

A: Yeah. I mean you lose some players like Antonio leaving. We lost some players via free agency, and you need to replace those players also.

Q: Top two guys, Pierre-Paul and Joseph, how ready are they to maybe have an impact?

A: You know, that’s really hard to say right now because it’s only been one day. We are all learning to speak Giants language. They’re learning new techniques. They are in a different environment. So, really we are concentrating on basics and fundamentals. I like what I saw this morning in the practice, but can they do it over a consistent period of time? After we have a consistent period of practices, I’ll be able to answer that question.

Q: Did you get to communicate at all to the scouting department what you wanted in the draft?

A: I think the scouting department has done a great job over the years of bringing in Giants defensive football players. So, my agenda was no different than their agenda.

Q: How big is it to lose a middle linebacker like Antonio Pierce and how hard will it be to find someone who replaces him? How important is the middle linebacker in the scheme?

A: The middle linebacker is important in anybody’s scheme. When you have a veteran like Pierce, that’s very hard to replace because he’s an extension of the coordinator, he’s a communicator, he has to get everyone set. That will be very difficult to replace. However, I do think we have men in the room who can do that.

Q: Your team drafted Dillard, who is not a tall linebacker. Do you have any biases against 6 feet tall middle linebackers?

A: As long as they run and hit. I had London Fletcher. London Fletcher was pretty good for us. As long as they can run and hit and intercept the football, I have no biases.

Q: Is it a detriment? In a perfect world you’d have a 6’3” guy…

A: To some there is, but if you have speed, quickness, and agility. I think that football players, that have some natural instincts are football players. If you give up some size advantage, yes, there’s some size advantage you give up especially when you play against big football teams like the Dallas Cowboys and those type people. For the most part, if you’re a football player, we expect you to play ball.

Q: We have only seen Gerris Wilkinson on the outside and on special teams, but he seems enthused to compete at that middle linebacker spot. From what you’ve seen and know of him, how well can he make the transition?

A: It’s really too early for me to say. We have only been in the classroom. So it’s been just me watching him and observing him in the classroom. He’s trying to pick up the defense, and he’s trying to learn the language. I think he’ll be able to compete. He’ll definitely have an opportunity to compete for the job.

Q: When would you like to have that position settled?

A: Well, it’s an on-going process. We don’t know if it will be settled at the end of our mandatory mini-camp. We don’t know if it will be settled in training camp. It’s an on-going process. We will evaluate that daily. Hopefully, someone will rear his head, and step out and be the leader.

Q: Have you given any thought to whether you want to coach in the booth or on the sideline?

A: I’d love to be on the sidelines.

Q: Why?

A: That’s where the game is played. I enjoyed being in the box because I could see the entire field, and I could make adjustments. But when you sit in the box, you sit in a sterile environment. It’s good to you as a signal caller, don’t get me wrong. It’s extremely good as a signal caller, but when I had the opportunity to go back on the field, you know, who wouldn’t want to be on the field? Who wouldn’t want to be there on Sunday afternoon at one o’clock with pads clicking? Who wouldn’t want to be there?

Q: As the coordinator, you were in the box, though:

A: As the coordinator, I was in the box some and as well as on the field some.
Q: But then when you were the coach, is that when you thought, ‘Okay, this is the place I need to be.’?

A: I’ve always thought that’s the place I wanted to be. Depending on who you work for, who is the head coach. Sometimes they dictate, ‘Hey, we like you in the box’ or ‘Hey, we like you on the field’, etc.

Q: How has the communication gone with the veterans?

A: I’ve had great communication with our veterans in just the classroom and in just the teach sessions. I found them very eager to learn, and I find them very eager to go out and practice football and play football.

Q: How do you feel about the pieces in place on the defensive line and how they’ll work together?

A: Well, when we get them all together in one group, I can answer that a lot better. Just the opportunity to have competition is great for our football team, especially at the defensive line position. I think that should be the strength of our football team.

Q: It seems that last year Tom was upset with the defense not being as physical as they had been, is there anything you can do about that as the coordinator?

A: While I would like to make guarantees, I can’t. We’ve started out by drafting Joseph and he’s a pretty big guy. I’m going to demand that we be physical and play physical. The Giants defense is a physical defense, and we know that from history. I want to return to that defense.

Q: Tom said he wants you on the sideline?
A: We have discussed it. I’m sure he does. We have discussed it, and his agenda is my agenda.

Q: Do you like to rotate defensive linemen?

A: I like for our defensive linemen to play until they fall out. So, if they are in there playing and if they give me 100% effort, and can still give me 100% effort on first, second, and third downs, I have no problem with that. If they need a blow, we’ll get them out. I like our best players to be on the field at all times.

Q: Does it matter to you that Osi says he wants to start, and Kiwanuka wants to start? Is that a headache to you?

A: You know, all those guys have an opinion of what they’d like to do. I would like for their dreams to come true. If they want to start, hey, prove it. We have a lot of football and a lot of practice, let’s just prove it and that will take care of itself.

EP

Some Practice Video

Got some practice video, mostly focused on the defense, and in particular on first-rounder DE Jason Pierre-Paul (90) and second-round DT Lival Joseph (97). As I said in an earlier post, Joseph looked especially mobile for a nose tackle. And you'll see some pass rush ability in Pierre-Paul.


video

EP

Farewell Feags, Hello Dodge And Bond

We've got our first video of the day here, starting with Jeff Feagles' farewell speech after 22 years of never missing a game, and then some practice video of seventh-round pick Matt Dodge and Jy Bond punting. It's unfortunate that we were stationed so far away, but you'll get an idea that neither of these guys is exactly Feagles, at least not yet.


The one really important thing Feagles said as he shoved off was that every kicker in the NFL should learn how to directional punt nowadays because of the outstanding physical abilities of the returners. It's interesting that Bond, and not the draft pick Dodge, would seem to have the edge there due to his experience playing Australian Rules Football.


"Coming from an Aussie Rules background, we've got to kick it all over; left, right, left foot, right foot," Bond said. "Around the corners, whatever. Directional is something I'd be comfortable at.

"It's all directional kicking. You've got to hit a target, so it's not necessarily standing and punting. We've got to hit guys running around, left and right, so it's often changing direction."

Dodge started out his punting career wanting to boom every kick, but said he changed that thinking around junior year at East Carolina.

"We did some directional stuff moreso my junior year," Dodge said. "We got a new special teams coordinator my senior year. But we did a little my junior year. I think I did fine, for sure. It was kind of how the wind was blowing. I guess it's the same philosophy here."

If Dodge is going to make any inroads with Tom Coughlin and special teams coordinator Tom Quinn, he'd better get used to tucking the ball away in the deep corners like Feagles did on a regular basis. It won't be easy, considering even Feagles said it took him six to seven years at the beginning of his career to master the directional arts.

It may be a particular challenge to Dodge, who started his career wanting to show little else besides leg strength.

"As a young punter, all I wanted to do was hit a spiral and bomb it," Dodge said. "One time I'd hit a 65-yard punt, and then I'd hit a 30-yard punt. But then I met up with a guy who was trying to get into the league a couple of years back and he told me, 'Look, if you can hit the same punt every time, 45, 50 yards, with good hang time, that's 10 times as valuable as a guy who doesn't know if he's going to overkick your coverage or hit the coverage in the back. I've kind of changed my whole philosophy."

While Dodge has changed, Bond has tried to refine himself through the tutelage of Eagles punt Sav Rocca here and in San Diego with former Chargers punter Darren Bennett, both veterans of Australian Rules Football. But it was Rocca who gave him the best piece of advice on dealing with the wind currents of the Meadowlands.

"He told me, 'Get used to it, this is the cold part of the country,'" Bond said.

Either way, neither of them will have to fight through Feagles, whose 43-year-old body would simply not allow him to train as hard as necessary to improve his leg strength over last year's disappointing performance.

"My mind tells me I want to come back this year," said Feagles, who said it hit him the Monday before the draft, having awaken feeling lousy in the back and knees, that the end had come. "But I started working out and my body is just not recovering the way it's supposed to.

"I've always been very, very hard in my training, and I just can't do it anymore. My body is just not letting me respond to it. It's time to move on."

He holds no ambitions of taking time off and giving it another try.

"I've taken my last swing," Feagles said. "I'm not going to be the guy to go back and tell people, yeah, I'm going to be training. I've tried to train this season. If I was going to train, I would play. But I don't want to be the guy to come back and pull a Brett Favre on you."

EP

Some Practice Notes

I'll be back with plenty more in a while, including some video. But first, here are some practice notes from the morning session.

For starters, first and second-round picks Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph both made strong impressions playing on the same defensive line, Pierre-Paul at right defensive tackle and Joseph over the nose. In several drills, Joseph looked strong turning and running downfield in pursuit, good news for a big man. And in team drills, Pierre-Paul was in the backfield quite often. He would have had at least three sacks if the team drills were actually full-contact scrimmages.

Seth Williams, Richmond cornerback signed as a college free agent, made two interceptions, one off UDFA quarterback Dominic Randolph of Holy Cross and the other off UDFA Riley Skinner of San Diego. But Randolph also showed some ability while dropping a nice pass in to Rutgers UDFA WR Tim Brown in traffic, who made a nice, falling catch on it. Randolph also found California (Pa.) WR A.J. Johnson in traffic.

One anxious moment came when third-round safety Chad Jones and UMass WR Victor Cruz, also signed to a free agent contract, came together on a deep throw by Randolph. Both stayed down for a few seconds and then got up and limped back to the huddle. But it turned out to be nothing serious, and both continued until the end of drills.

Rutgers' 5-foot-8, 165-pound receiver Tim Brown also looked strong, but unless he grows a couple of inches and puts on about 20 pounds, he'd have to be considered a longshot to make it to training camp.

More later.

EP

Here Again

Rookie minicamp today, but even bigger stuff than that coming up. Jeff Feagles retires, and he'll be addressing us. So we'll have that for you along with some locker room interviews. So stay tuned.

EP

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rookie Days

Here's a good piece from Giants.com regarding what this set of rookie defensive lineman can expect from their linemates. I always knew they had to provide breakfast for the unit, but was a little surprised to see that the menu has expanded to breakfast sandwiches and platters.

Something tells me Justin Tuck won't mind if Jason Pierre-Paul louses up an order or two during the year if he goes double-digit sacks.

EP

Another Guy With A Shot

As if the Giants didn't have enough defensive tackles on the depth chart, what with second-rounder Linval Joseph to go along with incumbents Chris Canty, Barry Cofield, Jay Alford, and Rocky Bernard, here's an undrafted free agent that could well wedge himself into the competition.

Nate Collins of Virginia didn't become a fulltime starter until his senior year. But once he did, he nearly matched his career totals by finishing second on the Cavaliers with 77 tackles, a team-high 10 1/1 tackles for loss, and six sacks to earn first-team All-ACC honors. He also returned his first career interception for a touchdown. He had a season-high 16 tackles against Georgia Tech.

When you take the season total and season-high tackle totals, you realize this guy is something pretty special. To accumulate those numbers at a nose tackle spot where the primary job is to occupy tacklers, that tells a lot about his strength and aggressiveness. He undoubtedly spent a lot of his energies splitting double teams there.

He played nose tackle in Virginia's 3-4 defense, but projects as a three-technique (think Fred Robbins) in the 4-3. He's 6-foot-2, 290.

Here's what NFL Draft Scout had to say about him.

Pass rush: Good initial burst to slip through gaps and create havoc before the play has really begun. Uses his hands well to slap away the blocker's attempts to control him. Active feet. Constantly bouncing from side to side to counter the blocker's attempts and get his opponent off balance. Good acceleration through the gap once he has one. Has a late burst to close. Good use of upper-body strength, leg drive and his natural leverage for the bull rush, but his best pass-rush technique is a swim move. Lacks the height to consistently disrupt passing lanes. Active defender used on loops and stunts to help create pressure.

Run defense: Relies on his natural leverage advantage to hold up at the point of attack. Good initial pop to disengage quickly and has the quick hands and feet to counter and ultimately break free when initially stopped. Aggressive defender that steps into the hole and attacks the ball-carrier. Good effort in lateral pursuit, though he tires quickly once past the line of scrimmage. Has seen action at nose guard and defensive tackle in Virginia's 3-4 scheme, but lacks the bulk most teams prefer as a zero-technique in the NFL.

Explosion: Good initial burst, especially laterally, to slide through gaps. Flashes an explosive pop with his hands to slap away the blocker's attempts at controlling him. Arrives with a thud as a hitter.

Strength: Good use of leverage inside to hold up at the point. Lacks the bulk and strength to hold up consistently against the double-team, but is quick and active enough to split them on occasion. Good strength to slide off blocks and take down the ballcarrier.

Tackling: Despite lack of height, locates the ball quickly and works his way toward the action. Able to slide off blocks and drag ballcarrier to the ground. Stays square when not engaged by a blocker and is generally able to make the one on one tackle in tight quarters. Good drag-down tackler in pursuit. Arrives with a thump and wraps securely to make the stop.

Intangibles: A key reserve bef0re his breakout senior campaign. High effort player who was alternated between end (3-4) and nose guard as a senior. Plays with his emotions on his sleeve. Voted team captain despite 2009 being his first season as a full-time starter.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Live Chat

My gal, Patti Traina, will be having a live chat tomorrow night at 8 p.m. on her blog, Traina Thought. Hope you'll join her to get her insight (assuming you've had enough of me for the time being) on the draft and all other things Giants. Here's the info.

By the way, punter Jeff Feagles is supposed to officially announce his retirement on Friday, according to Patti. No surprise there, since he'd told the Tom Coughlin and the front office he was reconsidering his decision to play a 23rd season before the draft. Hence, the reason for choosing East Carolina punter Matt Dodge with the seventh-round pick.

EP

Landolt Video

CORRECTION: Upon further review, spurred by an astute reader's comments, I and the person who made this video made a huge gaffe on Penn State's Dennis Landolt. He actually played left tackle as a senior, his only season on that side. And his number is 73, not 79.

You can still see him on the tape, though. Just look to the left instead of the right, where the arrow is.



EP

Another UDFA

Now that we've explored the Brandon Crawford story -- to the applause of some, and the boos of some other sour-pusses -- let's take a look at an undrafted free agent who actually comes to rookie minicamp with a contract. That means he was signed as a priority free agent and has a better-than-even shot of at least getting to training camp.

Penn State right tackle Dennis Landolt is an interesting case, in that he came to the Giants because they handed him a $25,000 signing bonus. If that sounds insignificant, think again. The average undrafted college kid gets about $10,000 to sign. That means the Giants had to outbid somebody for Landolt.

If they think that highly of him, there's a good chance Landolt could be a factor deep into training camp, and perhaps even unseat somebody like Guy Whimper or Adam Koets for a roster spot. He's 6-foot-5, 306, and earned third-team AP All-America honors and made second-team All-Big Ten. Though he played right tackle mostly, some scouts project him as a guard because of his aggressive nature.

Here's what NFL Draft Scout had to say about him.

Pass blocking: Only adequate footwork on the edge, will be better in tight spaces inside. Occasionally meets wide ends on the corner, but will wait on them too often and not deliver a punch, allowing penetration. Bends at waist to push man around the pocket, will give up too many secondary rushes. Fair anchor, but can be pushed back by strong, elite ends. Plays with enough leverage to handle tackles one-on-one on twists. Feet get stuck at times when facing quicker ends. Does not recover from outside-in moves well, reaching instead of moving his feet.

Run blocking: Obviously loves to come off the ball with bad intentions, able to latch onto his man's numbers and sustain through the whistle. Good mobility and strength to be effective in zone-blocking scheme. Combos well, easily moving from end to negate the linebacker. Moves feet to get the proper angle for walling off defenders inside or sealing the edge. Gets low in short-yardage situations, keeping legs moving to push back the pile. Good cut blocker, gets low, hits the shin and rolls or get hand up to prevent defender from reaching the play.

Pulling/trapping: Quick enough feet to trap around guard to meet linebackers in the hole. Gets low to engage and push back his man, keeps churning to the whistle to sustain. Adjusts well to oncoming inside defenders, keeps them from reaching the ball from behind.Initial Quickness: Comes off the ball really well on most run plays, driving average ends back and moving even stout linemen in the needed direction. Average pass set and kick-slide after snap, may struggle to get hands on quicker NFL ends to prevent them from using their pass rush moves. Forced to reach against blitzing linebackers.

Downfield: Has the mobility to get downfield to block, but ducks his head and bends at the waist trying to reach defenders at second level instead of moving his feet and extending his arms to engage. Usually finds a target, and hits the inside man.

Intangibles: Extremely durable, reliable lineman with excellent work ethic. Gives his all on every play. Coach Joe Paterno lauds Landolt for his discipline and for being assignment-sure. Took on vocal leader role as a senior.

He's durable, too, having started 39 straight games. He was a big part of that line allowing just 17 sacks in 13 games, and helped the Nittany Lions rush for 169.8 yards per game, fifth best in the Big 10.

Because of that and the Giants' obvious interest, he has to be looked at as having the best chance of the undrafted signees to latch on to the roster.

EP

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some Video

Yeah, okay, I know. I'm a sucker for a feel-good story. Look, we'll have plenty of time to talk about the drafted and undrafted free agents who have a legitimate shot at making a roster spot. But sometimes, football is more than a zero-sum sport, as we saw in the previous post about Brandon Crawford.

Here's a good video I found of him that should bring a tingle to anyone who watches. Very inspirational. So enjoy. We'll soon be talking about Xs and Os again, but for now, we'll stick with the 33-year-old Crawford and his most excellent journey.


EP

Interesting Prospect

Among the kids coming in for tryouts during rookie minicamp stands a man that would naturally be near and dear to Tom Coughlin's heart.

The head coach is a big military guy. It's no secret that he enjoys the company of soldiers of any rank, as he's had a range from commanding generals to injured privates view his practices. So it's no surprise that Ball State defensive end Brandon Crawford should have been invited for a tryout.

Crawford, at 6-3, 272 pounds, is obviously there because of his on-field accomplishments. He finished second on his team with three sacks and 11 1/2 tackles for losses, earning All-MAC second-team honors. But it wasn't long ago that Crawford wore another uniform.

You see, he's 33 years old. He went into the Marine Corps in 1999, after a few years working in an automotive factory after a run-in with the law ruined his college chances after high school graduation in 1996. Crawford served until 2003, attending the Military Occupational Specialties School and posting at the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, N.C. while there.

He walked on at Ball State in 2006, and went on to start 39 consecutive games. And now, at 33, he has an oh-so-slim shot at earning a trip to Giants training camp.

"I can contribute leadership, character, maturity," he told the Kansas City Star before the draft. "A lot of those guys they bring in are younger guys, they’ve never been in this position before. I’ve spent four years in the Marine Corps. I know what it takes to be accountable.

"You have to have toughness, you have to have effort, you’ve got to be someone they can trust and can communicate with. You have to have loyalty to your team and your teammates, even when you’re off the field, by doing the right things the right way for the right reasons."

Pretty cool stuff.

EP

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rookie Minicamp

The Giants will hold their rookie minicamp Friday through Sunday, and will have 54 players in attendance.

The group includes 11 players on the current 80-man roster, who are eligible based on credited seasons. They are quarterback Rhett Bomar, fullback Jerome Johnson, tight end Carson Butler, guard Rueben Riley, defensive end Tommie Hill, defensive tackle Dwayne Hendricks, linebacker Kenny Ingram, cornerback Vince Anderson, safety Sha’reff Rashad, punter Jy Bond and kicker Sam Swank.

Bomar, Anderson, Rashad, Riley, and Ingram spent all or most of their time on the practice squad.

Also attending will be the seven draftees; defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul of South Florida, defensive tackle Linval Joseph of East Carolina, safety Chad Jones of LSU, linebacker Phillip Dillard of Nebraska, guard Mitch Petrus of Arkansas, linebacker Adrian Tracy of William & Mary and punter Matt Dodge of East Carolina.

The Giants also have signed 13 undrafted free agents, including quarterback Dominic Randolph of Holy Cross, tight end Jake Ballard of Ohio State, wide receivers Tim Brown of Rutgers, Duke Calhoun of Memphis and Victor Cruz of Massachusetts, offensive lineman Dennis Landolt of Penn State, center Jim Cordle of Ohio State, defensive end Ayanga Okpokowuruk of Duke, defensive tackle Nate Collins of Virginia, linebacker Lee Campbell of Minnesota, cornerbacks Seth Williams of Richmond and Leon Wright of Duke and safety Michael Greco of Central Florida.

In addition, 23 players are scheduled to attend the camp on a tryout basis. That group includes quarterback Riley Skinner of Wake Forest, running backs Deshawn Wynn of Florida, Tony Hunt of Penn State and Andre Dixon of Connecticut, runningback/fullback Brian Toal of Boston College, fullback Anthony Cotrone of Maine, tight end Mitch Ryan of San Diego, tight end/long snapper Jon Loyte of Boston College, wide receivers Lance Leggett of Miami and D.J. McAuley of William & Mary, centers Robby Felix of UTEP and Nick Richmond of Delaware State, tackles Kyle Webber of Gardner-Webb and Ben Benshoof of Wingate, guard Chris Poole of Holy Cross, defensive end Brandon Crawford of Ball State, defensive tackles Abe Koroma of Western Illinois and Santonio Thomas of Miami, linebacker Micah Johnson of Kentucky, cornerbacks Wondy Pierre-Louis of Florida and Ben Hannula of San Diego, safety John Busing of Miami (Ohio) and long snapper Ryan Neill of Rutgers.

Given the fact that teams are limited to 80-man training camp rosters, most of those tryouts will be sent home after the rookie minicamp. And some of those undrafted free agents will eventually serve as training camp fodder, with little hope of surviving the final cut.

EP

Interested in DTs

If you think the Giants were done at defensive tackle just because they drafted Linval Joseph in the second round, think again.

Various reports indicate the Giants and the agent for just-released Jaguars' DT John Henderson, who played for Tom Coughlin for one season, have talked. Although Henderson has a visit scheduled with Kansas City, and will be scheduling several other teams, the Giants appear interested.

Also, Tampa Bay is going to cut defensive tackle Chris Hovan, so he might be another option for the Giants.

Adding fuel to all these rumors is a report on NFL.com that the Giants nearly pulled off a deal with the Saints involving restricted DT Barry Cofield before they chose East Carolina DT Linval Joseph in the second round. Sounds like the front office was as underwhelmed with Cofield's play in 2009 as some other observers, and probably feel that Cofield will never be a true force in the middle. They did give him a second-round tender, however, so they must have some belief in him.

Still, the rumored trade attempt might have been a case of getting rid of a guy a year too early, when he still has value, than a year too late. In either case, it's totally unclear whether Cofield's free agent future -- and the big contract he hopes will come with it -- will lie with the Giants or elsewhere.
EP

Draft Viewership

Whether you liked the new draft format or not, apparently the television viewers of the land had no qualms with it. According to the NFL, the viewership went up to 45.4 million, from a record 39 million a year ago.

EP

Youth

Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin both made liberal use of the word "upside" in their appraisals of their higher-round draft picks.

While the word is usually taken in a positive context, as the general manager and head coach meant it to be, it also has a negative connotation which applies to first-to-third-round picks Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph, and Chad Jones. Because of injuries or mere life experience, those three have more limited football experience than those taken around them.

In other words, the Giants are what is popularly known as betting "on the come" with these guys. Betting that they haven't played their best football yet, and a little education, conditioning, or on-field experience will take them to levels far higher than where they are now.

Take Pierre-Paul, for instance. He didn't even start playing football until junior year in high school, when the coach coaxed him off the basketball court to play in a playoff game. After high school, he played two years of junior and community college before he hit South Florida, where he started all of seven games before he declared himself draft-eligible as a junior.

The 270-pound Pierre-Paul is certainly active enough, and his impressively long body and huge wingspan bodes will for the future. But as far as anyone knows right now, the Giants have drafted a great back-flipper. And that would have been outstanding if this was an Olympic year. Nobody quite knows what they're going to see once they get Pierre-Paul in pads. With any luck, it'll be a supreme pass rusher who forces himself into playing time, the positive of upside. But right now that upside is so high because Pierre-Paul's experience level is so low that it would be hard for him not to improve to some extent.

Joseph is a different case. The defensive tackle has had weight and stamina issues. Although he weighs just 315 now, he was 70 pounds heavier before minor back surgery following his freshman year. And then he put 20 of it back on before the 2008 season. Weight yo-yoing is never good, and it resulted in Joseph having to be used in rotation rather than as a straight starter inside. One scouting report said he often looked winded when playing consecutive series. He'll have to overcome that, in part by being vigilant about his weight. But the "upside" is that if he can succeed in that, he could be a big-body occupier of blockers and a disruptive force on the pass rush.

East Carolina doesn't play in the biggest of NCAA Division 1 conferences, either, so his level of competition wasn't like someone coming out of an SEC or Big-10 school. He faced mostly the Tulsas, UTEPs and Central Floridas of the world, with only occasional forays into big-boy territory. That's not uncommon, but since we're talking about flaws, it's worth mentioning.

Safety Chad Jones spent four years playing at big-time LSU. That's good. But he also split his time between the football field and the baseball diamond, where he helped pitch the Bayou Bengals to a 2009 College World Series championship. As a result, his upper body isn't fully developed. A lot of extra time in the weight room will remedy that.

That's not a huge knock. Nor is the fact that he never engaged in spring football practices. But Jones understandably didn't have as extensive a football experience as others who specialized in the sport. So there is an educational gap there.

So all these players have huge upsides. There's nothing wrong with that. But when one bases his high-round draft picks on potential created by experience or physical deficiencies, that's taking quite a risk. And that is exactly what Jerry Reese has done with this draft.

He's betting on the come. And from now until the end of the season, he'll go to bed hoping he hasn't thrown a whole lot of money on the table only to roll craps.

Opinions?

EP

Sunday, April 25, 2010

One More UDFA

Giants signed Minnesota MLB Lee Campbell, the Gophers' top tackler in 2009, as an undrafted free agent. He goes into the mix with fourth-rounder Phillip Dillard and young veterans Jonathan Goff, Gerris Wilkinson, and Bryan Kehl.

EP

Undrafted Free Agents

Mikey G. has a partial list of the undrafted free agents the Giants signed in the hours after the draft. Here it is, at the bottom of the Feagles story. And you can add another kid in Penn State offensive lineman Dennis Landolt. I'm sure more will be signed, or be brought in to try out at the rookie minicamp next Friday and Saturday.

EP

My Opinion

Thanks for all the participation and opinions on the just-concluded draft. I haven't read the newspapers for their letter grades yet. That was done on purpose because I didn't want to be influenced by anything before I wrote this.

A lot of people like to give an immediate analysis of the draft, but as the last Giants GM George Young said many times, you can't judge a draft until three or four years down the road. In most cases, he's right. But there is one sure-fire way to get a grade on this one in a much shorter time frame.


Make something out of Phillip Dillard.


The way I see it, Dillard is the lynchpin to this entire draft. Not Jason Pierre-Paul, not Linval Joseph, not Chad Jones.


Those first through third-rounders are going into units that should already have their starters set. With Pierre-Paul's and Joseph's limited experience against major college competition, each will likely serve in a rotational role up front. And Jones may well make his biggest impact on special teams as Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle, and Deon Grant handle the bulk of the safety responsibilities.


But Dillard is a different story. He comes into a middle linebacking situation frought with uncertainty. He, out of all the draft picks, is the one who can make an immediate impact if he can show more than Jonathan Goff, Gerris Wilkinson, or Bryan Kehl in the minicamps and training camps.


He had a checkered career at Nebraska, having 2008 cut short by an ankle injury and suffering a torn ACL that caused him to redshirt his sophomore season. He lost his starting job at the start of 2009. But he regained it, and was said to be responsible for allowing second overall pick Ndamukong Suh to make plays that wouldn't have been made with a middle linebacker who drew less attention than Dillard. And just reading Dillard's quotes, one can see he's got an Antonio Pierce-like chip on his shoulder, which is a good start.


If Dillard can move right into a starting spot and develop himself into a run-stopping, pass-covering leader like Pierce over the next year or two, this entire draft will have been worth it. The Giants have generally had a good track record with those later-round draft picks, so the odds of Dillard succeeding are hardly outrageous. But the 6-foot, 245-pound middle linebacker has to back up his talk on the field now.


If he can do that, you can slap a big, red "A" on Reese's whole draft, regardless of how the others fare.


Agree? Disagree?


EP

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Giants.com Story

Here's the Feagles story from Giants.com. Have to tell you, from the sound of it, I think Feagles is definitely done. You know the old saying, "If you're thinking about retirement, you already are."

Feagles Future Uncertain As Giants Draft Punter Matt Dodge

By Michael Eisen

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –
The Giants knew they would have to eventually replace Jeff Feagles. Now it appears eventually is for the 2010 season.

Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese revealed at their post-NFL Draft news conference today that the 44-year-old Feagles has informed the team he might be physically unable to play this season, which would be his 23rd in the NFL and eighth with the Giants. Coughlin said “yes” when asked if he would be surprised if Feagles wanted to continue his career.

Knowing that Feagles might retire, the Giants selected East Carolina punter Matt Dodge on the seventh round of the draft, the 221st overall pick.

Feagles last week visited with Coughlin in the Timex Performance Center and followed up their conversation with a phone call. He is expected to make a final decision on his status this week.

“That led us to make the pick in the seventh round,” Coughlin said. “Jeff is going to come in and we are going to continue to talk further. Jeff came in to see me and then called me again and we talked about where he was in terms of what his thinking was and his considerations about perhaps retiring. So we felt like that we would go ahead and not pass on this punter, who was one of the two people that we felt were draft-worthy in this particular draft.”

“Jeff’s really not sure that physically he is going to be able to do it,” Reese said. “He has been working out really hard in the offseason trying to get himself ready to go because I think in his mind he really wants to do it, but I don’t think he’s sure that his body can do it. We are trying to protect ourselves in that respect. We will address that middle of next week sometime, so we will see which way that’s going to go.”

Feagles is the most durable and prolific punter in NFL history. He has never missed a game in his career, playing in a league-record 352 consecutive regular season games - the third-highest games-played total in history – and 11 postseason games, including Super Bowl VLII. The two-time Pro Bowler holds the NFL records with 1,713 punts, 71,211 yards and 554 punts inside the 20-yard line. He has placed at least 20 punts inside the 20 in 20 consecutive seasons.

If Feagles doesn’t play, the Giants will look at Dodge, who averaged 42.9 yards on 261 punts at Appalachian State and East Carolina, and former Australian Rules Footballer Jy Bond.

“If Jeff is not in the mix, we will try to groom these guys to get us ready for our season,” Reese said. “We need to get going right away with these guys; that’s very important to me. We need to get going right away.”

Coughlin was asked what he has seen from Bond since he signed on March 18.

“’Mate.’ ‘Mate.’ ‘How are you doing Mate?’” Coughlin said of the Aussie’s standard greeting for everyone. “He has been involved in the program. There has been no getting outside. He has worked with (special teams coaches) Tom (Quinn) and Thomas (McGaughey), but I haven’t made an appearance in those things just yet. I am his mate. I passed that test.”

The Giants would also have to find a new holder for placekicks without Feagles. Coughlin said backup quarterback Jim Sorgi, who once handled that duty with the Indianapolis Colts, began working there last week.

Coughlin was not expecting to hear that Feagles might not play when the two men sat down last week.

“I was surprised. I wouldn’t tell you any different,” Coughlin said. “Jeff was trying to do the right thing by letting us know with the draft in front of us rather than behind us. So he did the honorable thing as he always would do, having the best interest of our team at heart. Whether we were going to do anything about it or not, that obviously was up to us. So he is coming in this week and we will see what the final status of this is. But obviously we felt it was important enough to act.”

Feagles said when he re-signed last month that he did so only after working out and strengthening his legs. Coughlin was asked if Feagles is now hurt or tired.

“No, he is 44 years old,” Coughlin said. “He worked very hard for approximately a month right after the season just to try to tell himself again that he could do this and wanted to be able to do it. And then he ran into some – as we went on and started the offseason program – ran into some of the physical tests that you have to go through as you continue to advance almost on a weekly basis. He has a program which is unique to him, but he is having some physical issues. And so he has decided to deal with them.”

Coughlin said the addition of Dodge will not influence Feagles’ decision.

“If he decided that he wanted to do this and could – I think the question is ‘could do this,’” Coughlin said. “(If he) could continue at the highest level to do this, it wouldn’t matter who he had to compete against. That wouldn’t be a factor. He has done this before.”

But it appears he will not be doing it again.

EP

No Surprise

Guess the drafting of East Carolina punter Matt Dodge shouldn't have come as any surprise after all. Here's a story from Kenny Palmer of Giants Insider that indicates incumbent Jeff Feagles may be giving thought to retirement.

And here's the Star-Ledger story on the same subject. Decision could come down next week.

Seems he has doubts about whether he can physically do it again for a 23rd season. Would hate to see him go, but nobody knows Feagles' own body better than himself. If he goes, it'll be Jy Bond vs. Dodge in training camp.

EP

So That's It

The Giants' draft is finished. Here's how the whole rundown looks.

1: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
2: Linval Joseph, DT, East Carolina
3. Chad Jones, S, LSU
4. Phillip Dillard, MLB, Nebraska
5. Mitch Petrus, G, Arkansas
6. Adrian Tracy, LB/DE, William and Mary
7. Matt Dodge, P, East Carolina

Obviously, there was a lot of forethought given to loading up on defense in this one as five of the seven selections landed on that side of the ball. I was a little surprised they didn't go after a running back late and instead took a third punter for training camp depth. Seems a little excessive to me.

So now that it's done, tell me what you think? Do they still have to make more moves in the second phase of free agency? Who would you go after?

And did you like the new format, spreading the draft over three days?

EP

On Matt Dodge

NFL Draft Scout ranked Dodge as the third-best punter in the draft. The Appalachian State transfer stands 6-2, 224, and he's not regarded as a real boomer. In fact, despite a 48.5-yard gross average that ranked him second in the nation, scouts say he was helped by a lot of friendly bounces on his 50-yarders. Hang time is also said to be an issue with him.

Still, he'll be in the mix with Feagles and Jy Bond, the Australian Rules punter they signed as camp competition. Chances are he'll compete with Bond for a spot on the practice squad so Feagles doesn't have to get kicked out during the week. He can also kick off, but scouts were not impressed with those.

Here's what NFL Draft Scout had to say in analysis:

Has fair leg strength, but many of his 50-yard kicks were aided by friendly bounces. Get-off times fluctuated from 1.1 to 1.4 seconds depending on whether he hesitates or takes a small step before starting his typical two-step delivery. Hangtime is a major concern and too many of his kicks don't spiral, turn over and stay in the air for only 3.4-3.7 seconds. Used rugby punts to place punts inside the 20-yard line and was too inconsistent keeping punts out of the end zone when using normal delivery. A bit below-average height and leg extension for the position. Made four tackles on punt returns in 2009 and has a relatively stout build. Willing to throw his body into the play. Kickoffs lack lift to be effective at the next level.

EP

Seventh-Round And Final Pick

With their seventh (221st overall) and final pick of the draft, the Giants selected Matt Dodge, a punter out of East Carolina. That's the second East Carolina player taken, next to second-rounder DT Linval Joseph.

More importantly, though, he now provides direct competition for Jeff Feagles, who is trying to make a roster for his 23rd season.

EP

Phillip Dillard Conference Call

Here's the transcript of the call with Giants' fourth-round middle linebacker, Phillip Dillard of Nebraska. I saw it written that in many games, Dillard made defensive end Ndamukong Suh better, and not the other way around. Judging by his confident attitude, I'll take those reports at their word. He sounds a lot like Antonio Pierce in his love for quarterbacking the defense and meeting would-be blockers head-on.

Q: Your reaction to going to a team that has a dire need for a middle linebacker. I assume that has to be better for you than going somewhere with an established starter, right?

A: Oh, it is, definitely. I am ecstatic. When my name went across the screen, I knew what their needs were and after going down there on my visit I was like, “Wow, everything just fell into place.” It is amazing.

Q: It seems like they brought you in for a visit and maybe had some other conversations. Did you think they were a real possibility for you here?

A: Yeah, I did think they were a possibility. Talking to the coaches and the new defensive coordinator there – they were doing everything, they watched the film, they knew everything. They told me what my strengths and my weaknesses were. And they were accurate. I was like, “They were obviously watching the film.” And the Giants are a great organization. So I don’t think they would bring anyone here just to learn. I was ecstatic just to go on the visit. I knew there was a possibility and a chance and I’m glad it worked out the way that it did.

Q: How high did you expect to go and what did people tell you that may have led you to believe you could drop?

A: I was expecting to go like second or third. No one told me anything that would have expected me to drop. That is just the way the draft works. Every year things never go the way they are supposed to or planned. So I just had to sit there and wait for my name to be called. And it did.

Q: Just reading some stuff up on you recently – the injuries and having to earn the starting job back, it sounds like it was a tumultuous college career that kind of ended on the upswing there. What led you to maybe turn things around? Or what was it about your situation that allowed you to kind of regroup there?

A: It wasn’t really about turning things around. My mom had passed during that January. And I told her that I was going to do something that would honor the family and stay out of trouble and do the right thing. So all I had to do was work and not complain and not moan, knock the attitude, show great character, be happy, and not be a cancer in the locker room. And not be mad because things don’t go my way because that is just how life goes. Things don’t always go your way so I am going to have to work through that to be a man. And that is what I did and it worked out for the best.

Q: Do you think having gone through that makes you better prepared than the average prospect?

A: I wouldn’t say it makes me better prepared. Just the things I went through and the things and the knowledge that the coaching staff and everything that Nebraska as of me, yeah, I do have kind of a lead on and going through a lot. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone has a different story. But I do know that I am ready to make the transition and this is something that I have waited for a long time that I have worked for and I can’t wait to get it started.

Q: You played other positions at Nebraska – outside, weakside, middle. Is middle your best position? What kind of middle linebacker are you?

A: I can play middle or outside. Both I am great in the middle, too. I am great between the tackles. I always stay square. I never cross over. I am very physical and if you watch my film at times I might not get a play because I’m running downhill as I’m trying to knock out the pulling linemen because he is a threat to me, and I just love contact. I love being physical and aggressive. And my mental aspect is that I love to be in control of the checks and make the checks. And if you look at our defense, I made all of the checks from blitzes to checking high coverages, to checking man coverages and telling our corners or safeties or dimes what they are going to do and what check to make. That is just something that I love to do. I love to lead and have that on my shoulders, the quarterback of the defense. And if I get that responsibility, I am going to handle it with care.

Q: You did that this year from the weakside?

A: I did it this year from the MIC because we were mostly in dime and nickel because of our conference. But even when I played WILL playing base, sometimes I would still make the checks and I would still make calls. I have to check blitzes though.

Q: You sound very much like Antonio Pierce. Have you followed his career?

A: Yeah, I have. And that is another thing that I knew. I know that he left, and that he is off the team. So I knew that it would be a good possibility and a good fit for me. And I mean it’s a great organization, the Giants organization is great. All you hear is good things about how they take care of their players and they respect the players and everything. I’m stuttering right now and I never stutter.

Q: How much did Bo Pelini prepare you for this draft and what pointers has he given you knowing that he has been an NFL linebacker coach before?

A: If he wasn’t my coach, I don’t think I would be in this position right now – and Coach Eckler and Coach Carl (Pelini, defensive coordinator). It is the whole mindset of everything that he has taught me. Like he will come into our meetings and give me the pointer and say, “what would you do here? What check would you make here? What do see about this offense.” And you have to know it and you have to say it. He won’t get mad, he would just go, “No, there is another thing.” There are always certain possible plays they can do from each formation. But the knowledge of the game that he has instilled in me is beyond reason.

Q: You obviously know there is an opportunity here. Do you expect that you will come in and win the starting job?

A: No, I don’t expect it. I expect to come in and make an impact on the team regardless of what they ask me to do. Whether it is to play special teams, learn the playbook, master the playbook, get the playbook down, then earn a spot, that is what I am willing to do. I just want to be a part of the team. I want to make an impact on the team. And I want to help this team go to a Super Bowl because I know that is the ultimate goal.

Q: I’m sure by now you know how the scouting process works, and I’m sure you have heard this before, people mention the fact that you played behind Suh and say, “Oh, that probably led to his production.” I’m guessing that you don’t agree. So if I said that to you, how would you counter that?

A: He is a great player; he is a phenomenal player – one of the best that I have seen in years. The thing I was always talking about is Coach Bo and Coach Carl told some of the scouts that if I wasn’t behind him that he wouldn’t have made a couple of plays because they had to game plan for me, too. And that I hadn’t expected them to say because everything I say is always, “Well, he is a great player and that whole D-line is and the secondary behind me is great. So I have to be great, I have to play great in order to not let my teammates down.” So that is how it started. I have to play up to their level to not let them down. So he is phenomenal player. But everything that Coach Bo and his staff taught me made me a good player.

Q: Am I hearing this correctly, you are questioning the second overall pick?

A: No, I didn’t say that – never. That man is a monster. He is a busy man, and he deserves all of the credit. I just help out; I just help out.

Q: You have no residuals from the ACL?

A: No, after I tore it I went through the rehab and I haven’t hurt it since. I don’t know the injury I got was just a freak accident. Someone pushed me on kickoff and I was going the other way and they pushed me opposite way and it popped. But no, it has been great ever since.

Q: It sounds like you are a real good film study guy. So what do you think the biggest adjustment is going to be as you try to compete for a job in the NFL?

A: Now that I don’t have to worry about classes. I get to watch film even more. So I’m just going to go in there and I’m going to be in there with the coaches, be on his ears and I will probably get on his nerves. “Coach, what do I do here?” I want to know everything, I want to know the in’s and out’s of everybody that we play, and then go to me watching the film and then me being able to pick out the offensive linemen’s stance – is it full; is too high, is it buzzsaw, is he standing on his feet when he backpeddles. Just everything. I watch for every little thing. I really watch film because I love giving a heads up on the players. It makes it look like I’m doing good out there but really I’m just doing my research and I’m playing off of it.

EP

Some Tracy Video

Here's a video of sixth-round defensive end Adrian Tracy in his 2009 game against Villanova. Looks like a pretty active guy.


EP

Report On Adrian Tracy

Here's the NFL Draft Scout rundown on sixth-round defensive end Adrian Tracy of William and Mary. Actually, the 6-foot-3, 248-pound Tracy, a freshman walk-on who eventually set a Tribe record by starting every game of his four years, looks more like an outside linebacker. He's played outside linebacker, inside linebacker, and defensive end during his career. High character guy, too.

Read & React: Needs to improve his backfield awareness, will lose the ball and get taken away from the play by misdirection. Lacks elite reaction time, but will close on the ball quickly when he finds it.

Run defense: Held up well against strong-side tackles at defensive end, but found it hard to disengage. Does use his hands and upper-body strength well to get off tight end blocks on the edge and fight through trash to reach the ball. Willing to take on fullback blocks in the hole, stays low and delivers a blow but lowers his head and shoulder at times instead of keeping his head up. Needs to defeat cut blocks more regularly.

Pass defense: Fluid and quick dropping at the correct angle. Has the quickness to attack plays in his zone. Good chaser to the ball in space to help out teammates. Good length and vertical to affect passing lanes when coming off the edge. Inexperienced at recognizing routes.

Tackling: Strong arms to wrap up and drag down ballcarriers inside and on the edge. Secure, but not especially explosive, as a tackler. Will duck his head, though, instead of bringing his hips. Plays a bit stiff, and could be more consistent breaking down to adjust to elusive runners in space. Should contribute on special teams because of his hustle and length.

Pass Rush/Blitz: Uses his length, strength and hustle to get a pass rush, rather than elite speed and explosion off the edge. Able to bull rush lesser tackles. Sheds tight end blocks off the edge and can rip off in either direction. Could be more consistent running through running back blocks; tries to run around them rather than using his superior strength. Needs more pass rush moves.

Intangibles: Team captain, solid character. Intelligent player recruited by Ivy and Patriot League schools; on schedule to graduate with kinesiology degree.

EP

And the Giants Take In The Sixth-Round...

back to defense. Adrian Tracy, DE, William and Mary. That's the fifth defensive player out of six picks, and the third defensive lineman. There's going to be some competition up front unless the Giants start shedding folks like Dave Tollefson and Rocky Bernard in the coming days.

EP

Sixth-Rounder Coming Up

Giants picking next, after Denver.

Chad Jones Conference Call

Here's the transcript of third-round safety Chad Jones' conference call with the media. Sounds like a confident kid who had no trouble giving up a promising baseball career to take his shot with the NFL. Guy's a big pizza fan, too, as you'll see midway down the interview.

Q: Were you excited to learn your fate and come here?

A: Oh yeah. It’s a great place. I love that I went to a team where I have a guy on the team that I’m kind of familiar with. That has helped me out a lot with Corey Webster being on the team, especially since he’s a defensive back. Hopefully, he will show me the ropes and show me how to be a New York Giant.

Q: How well do you know Corey? Have you heard from him?

A: I haven’t talked to him in these last couple days, but I know him really good. I almost try and talk to him three days a week. We have a good relationship going.

Q: Was it a tough decision to stay with football and abandon the baseball career?

A: Not when I weighed out my options, you know. The number one thing is what I love more; what I would love to do more in my life. I chose football, so it wasn’t that bad of a decision. It wasn’t that hard of a decision. I know I made the right one.

Q: You think you could have made it in baseball?

A: You know, it’s a little bit slower game with a longer process. Yeah, I believe I have the tools to make it to the big show. I believe I had the tools to make it.

Q: Can you still throw a 91 mph fastball?

A: Yeah, I can still throw it. That’s what I average, 89-91 or 92. I could bump it up there pretty high to 95.

Q: Sounds like you like the game of football better…is that accurate, and why?

A: Yeah, that’s definitely accurate. Football games are much more exciting, and the fan bases are much better, you know. I like the commotion going and I like the excitement. There is so much more excitement on the football field. I just love the atmosphere, and that just fits me.

Q: Do you think because you played two sports that you’re a little behind in football now?

A: I wouldn’t say behind, but I didn’t get as much football maybe that I think would make me a better player. I think now that I’m focusing on football year round, I think you’re going to see the best of me. I feel that the best is yet to come. I think I had some good games at LSU and I had some strong points. But I think there is so much more to see what I have.

Q: How much did you talk to David Merritt, the Giants Safeties coach?

A: Well, I took a visit out there, and me and him got along really good. He put me up on the board and taught me a few things. Honestly, I impressed him enough for him to want me on his staff, the defensive back staff. We had a few good conversations, and things worked out good between me and him.

Q: What impressions did you get of Merritt as a person and a coach?

A: First thing, when I got there, I knew that he knew what he was talking about. He was telling me about defensive schemes and he taught me so many things in such little time. There is so much more I can learn from him, you know. I feel that he’s a great teacher, and I think as a man he has a great character. So you have kind of like a role model and you want those type of guys around you, especially when you are trying to work to get somewhere.Q: You think you can be an NFL punt returner?

A: I definitely can. I believe I definitely can. I have secure hands with the ball, so I definitely want the special teams coaches to put me out there. I hope things work well.

Q: When you played baseball, did you limit your size? Can you get bigger now as a football player?

A: No, I actually think I actually got bigger during baseball season. I was a pitcher, and I didn’t really do much running because I was in shape from football. I was basically one of the best players when it comes to conditioning wise on the team. I kind of blew up during baseball as a pitcher because I only pitched once a week. I would pitch 2-3 innings as a closer, and at night time they would actually give you a box of pizza. Sometimes we would have five games a week, so I’d get five boxes of pizza. It kind of sat on my stomach, without me doing much exercise or running, and I blew up. When I got back to football, the weight cut really quick because it was all extra and I didn’t need it on my body.

Q: Why’d you quit baseball? They gave you pizza.

A: Yeah, I know. They gave me pizza. I had the good life. I just felt that football was where I wanted to be. I had been playing that since I was four or five years old. I grew up in a football family. That’s just how it is.

Q: Do they actually know how to make pizza in Louisiana?

A: Yeah man. They got all that down, you know.

Q: Have you ever been to New York?

A: Other then when I came up on my visit, no. I didn’t really get to see much of the city. I hear it’s amazing. I just can’t wait to get out there for football, you know. I can’t wait to get out there.

Q: You said you are from a football family…did you put in a good word for your brother (LSU DE Rahim Alem) when you came on your visit?

A: When I went to the New York Giants on my visit, I talked about him. With me being close enough to my brother, I tried to say everything that I could about him to the Giants and all the teams I visited. I definitely put in a good word for him. Hopefully, in the next few hours, they will pull the trigger and bring my brother up there, too.

EP

Combine Film

Here's a short video of fifth-round pick Mitch Petrus tying the NFL Scouting Combine bench-press record with 45 reps at 225 pounds.


Obviously a strong kid.

You may have noticed that there have been no action videos today. The reason is I haven't found any. At this stage of the draft, you get a lot of compilations of numerous players in a position, but little specific to the individual picks. If I come across something later, I'll put it up.

EP


Mitch Petrus

Here's the NFL Draft Scout report on 6-foot-3, 310-pound Arkansas guard Mitch Petrus. Note the red flag caused by his 2008 suspension for academic problems and the fact that he'll struggle against powerful defensive tackles. Could be a project, but there's no rush considering the Giants already have experience at guard in Rich Seubert, Chris Snee, Kevin Boothe, and possibly David Diehl if they move Diehl inside for Will Beatty.

He's had an interesting college career. No major colleges recruited him, so he walked on at Arkansas. Coaches finally gave him a varsity uniform after seeing his relentless motor, but he was all over the place in 2005, playing on kick coverage, tight end, and guard. He even played some fullback for 14 games in 2006, becoming one of Nebraska's best blockers out of the backfield.

Pass blocking: Rare overall athleticism for the position. Can mirror the pass rusher due to his balance and lateral agility. Is improving hand punch and upper-body strength. Quicker, more powerful hands as a senior. Natural knee bend and balance help him anchor surprisingly well for his lack of bulk, but this is an area of concern. Will struggle against powerful DTs' bull rushes.

Run blocking: Needs to add strength, especially in his lower body, to be a drive blocker. Relies on turning the defender away from the hole and sealing him off, as he struggles to physically uproot the defender. Marginal hand placement and will allow his hands to get outside the frame as a run blocker.

Pulling/trapping: Best attribute might be his quickness and agility to pull and get to the second level as a run blocker. Good straight-line speed to get around the tackle and out into the open field. Can break down and adjust on the fly to hit the moving target.

Initial Quickness: Good-to-very good quickness off the snap. Often the first off the line of scrimmage and gets good initial movement as a run blocker.

Downfield: Good effort to block downfield. Not a dominator, but consistently gets to the next level to block linebackers and even defensive backs.

Intangibles: Suspended for the 2008 season due to academics. Allowed to practice with the team last season despite the suspension and had time to acclimate to the new offense. Spent some of his time learning to box, improving his hand speed and strength. Impressed with his ability to adjust from the run-heavy offense Houston Nutt used to the pass-heavy attack favored by Bobby Petrino. Looks lighter on film than listed. Some feel he is maxed out at this weight and doesn't have the frame to add the weight and strength to be an effective guard in the NFL. NFL

Comparison: Eric Steinbach.

EP

Fifth-round Pick

Hey, I got one right. I said O-line, and the Giants (or should I say Vinny DiTrani) picked Mitch Petrus, G, from Arkansas with their fifth-round pick (147th overall).

First non-defensive pick of the draft.

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Giants Are UP

Giants are picking right now. I'm guessing O-line.

Voice Of Experience

Just an FYI here. The voice you hear announcing the Giants' fifth-round pick at Radio City Music Hall will be none other than Bergen Record scribe Vinny DiTrani. Nice honor for one of the most savvy football writers around, and certainly taught me a whole lot about this sport.

I only worry that the announcement is going to go like, "The Giants take with their fifth-round pick...Are you kidding me!"

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One More Reason To Believe Reese

Here's another reason to believe Jerry Reese when he said Thursday that Osi Umenyiora will not be traded.

The guy they might have given him up for, Oakland middle linebacker Kirk Morrison, was traded along with the Raiders' fifth-round pick about a half-hour ago to Jacksonville when Oakland moved up to the 10th pick in the fourth round.

So Morrison has new digs, and the Giants have a huge logjam at defensive end.

By the way, Umenyiora e-mailed the Associated Press last night, basically shooting down a previously-reported notion that he was unhappy that the Giants took DE Jason Pierre-Paul. He went on at length to proclaim he's a happy camper right now.

Seems like a lot of damage control to me. But it makes sense. If the guy's going to be here, no matter what, there's no sense in rocking the boat any more than he has already.

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Numbers Game

The team has announced fourth-round pick Phillip Dillard will wear jersey No. 55, which was Danny Clark's number the past two seasons. Also, first-round DE Jason Pierre-Paul will wear No. 90, second-round DT Linval Joseph will wear No. 97, and and third-round S Chad Jones will don No. 35.

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Dillard

Phillip Dillard is the first senior the Giants have taken in this draft. At 6-foot, 245, he's a fairly solid body who hits hard.

Here's what NFL Draft Scout had to say about him.

Read & React: Fast downhill between the tackles against the run. Reads misdirection and running back routes. A step slow on play action, and will get a bit overzealous against the run.

Run defense: Hustles from sideline-to-sideline and downfield and takes good angles to the ball. Lacks size to get through traffic and off of blocks consistently, but is willing to take on linemen to close up a hole and can be violent with his hands to stay free inside. Flexible enough to grab backs from behind and wrap up when coming off the edge. Will overrun plays and lose sight of the ball because of his lack of height.

Pass defense: Consistently plays three downs. Secure wrapping up after the catch. Stays with backs in man whether in the flat, over the middle, and down the seam. Can trail larger receivers and tight ends on crossing routes. Does not always find the ball in the air but can knock it out of backs' hands after the catch. Change-of-direction ability is adequate. Might struggle covering jerk routes.

Tackling: Explosive tackler between the tackles and in the flat. Strong enough in the upper body to take down ballcarriers with arm tackles. Fair changing direction in space for a middle linebacker, but could improve in that area. Breaks down well enough to at least slow down elusive backs. Tackling ability and hustle should help him as an inside cover man on special teams.

Pass Rush/Blitz: Comes hard on the blitz or when exploiting a lane to the quarterback. Does not miss the quarterback often once in his sights. Breaks down and uses his strength to overwhelm the signal caller. Will pound or avoid cut blocks from running backs.

Intangibles: Smart, intense player who directs defense from the middle and gives superb effort on every play. Worked off a lot of weight between his junior and senior seasons, when it appeared he re-dedicated himself. Showed maturity by being a good teammate and leading at practice when not playing the first two games of his senior year. Won the team's Novak Trophy in 2009 for "best exemplifying courage and determination despite all odds in the manner of Nebraska All-American center Tom Novak."

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Giants Fourth-Round Pick

With the 17th pick of the fourth round, No. 115 overall, the Giants addressed the linebacker problem by choosing Nebraska linebacker Phillip Dillard.

He's apparently a big inside hitter. He now goes into the mix with Jonathan Goff, Gerris Wilkinson, and Bryan Kehl. Also, four picks, four defensive players. What a statement!

Be back in a minute with the scouting report on Dillard.

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Giants are on the clock

Giants are picking in Round 4 right now.

Rounds 4-7

Last day of the draft here, and Round 4 is underway. No live-blog today, but I'll be monitoring things and putting up whatever information I have on the picks. So stick around all day.

My guess is they'll go some sort of offense with No. 4, now that they've addressed defense and special teams with the first three picks. As I said last night, I still find it curious that they haven't addressed the linebacker need yet, but I'm starting to think Jerry Reese is happy with the ones he's got. No rumors about trading for Oakland's Kirk Morrison that I've heard, either, although those could crop up after the draft.

Stay tuned.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

More Video

Here's a short video on third-round safety Chad Jones, who director of college scouting Marc Ross indicated can play both safety spots and return punts. Although LSU had several people returning punts, Ross said they'd send Jones back there for the "secure" punts because of his sure hands, developed during a collegiate pitching career that saw him turn down a $745,000 offer from the Astros and eventually play on LSU's 2009 NCAA championship team.

"He can move with it, too," Ross said, adding that Jones had a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown last season against Mississippi State last year.


Ross said Jones had "the best pure hands" of any position in the draft. "You can really see the baseball hand-eye coordination catching the football. He can really catch it."

He can also play in the box and in coverage, and at 225 is big enough to serve as a nickel safety replacing a linebacker. Ross called him an "explosive" hitter who can also play either safety spot. "You see him in single-high stuff," he said.

"He can be 230 because he's still not developed in his upper body and chest," Ross said. "You don't want to get too developed with the baseball stuff. So he could probably carry 230 easily. He may not want to be that big. The way they play the college linebackers these days, he's bigger than a lot of them who are barely six feet, 220 pounds."

So the Giants ended the evening with two more defensive players, but not a middle linebacker. Ross dropped a hint as to why, calling Linval Joseph and Jones "value picks." Young value, at that. All three picks, including yesterday's top pick, Jason Pierre-Paul, are juniors with more potential than experience.

It could explain in part why the Giants didn't go after what most people considered a good looking Penn State linebacker in Sean Lee.

"What we've done so far is, we've gotten value picks," Ross said. "I don't want to say this (middle linebacker) class was weak," Ross said. "There was McClain, and then there was a big dropoff. We didn't have a lot of guys with high value at that position."

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Chad Jones

Giants took Chad Jones, a safety out of LSU, with the third-round pick. Here's what NFL Draft Scout had to say about the 6-foot-2, 221-pound strong safety.

Read & React: Still developing in this area. Sneaks a peek at the quarterback and takes some false steps. Quick to accelerate once he locates the ball. Struggled a bit early with questionable angles, but improved throughout the season. Man Coverage: High and choppy backpedal because of his long legs. Good balance and sufficiently loose hips to change direction. Quick acceleration. Saw action in 27 games, including six starts, as nickel corner in 2008-09. Locates the ball and has good body control to make the leaping interception. Adjusts in the air and times his leap well. Good ball skills and the vision, agility and straight-line speed to generate yards after the interception.

Zone Coverage: High in his backpedal, but gains good depth on his drop. Allows the receiver to get too close before he turns with him, at times, allowing for small openings. Can do a better job of locating receivers in his zone.

Closing/Recovery: Closes downhill quickly and is a reliable open-field tackler. Trusts his own athleticism, but can be beaten over the top when he allows the receiver to eat up his cushion. Good straight-line speed, but lacks the elite second gear.

Run Support: One of his stronger areas. Attacks downhill and is an intimidating hitter. Good vision and anticipation to feel where the back is going and avoids blockers well. Has to improve fighting through blockers once engaged.

Tackling: Reliable open-field tackler. Breaks down well in space to make the secure stop against quicker athletes. Heavy hitter will occasionally lead with his shoulder to make the intimidating hit to protect the middle. Has shown the explosiveness to knock the ball free. Has four career forced fumbles.Intangibles: Highly touted prep prospect ranked No. 1 among safeties by some scouting services. Team's primary punt returner in 2009 when backed up due to his reliable hands and strength to break tackles. Was given a 2nd-3rd round grade in the MLB draft, but slipped to the 13th round because he planned to play football. Turned down a $745,000 contract from Houston. Originally played in the outfield before dazzling coaches with his pitching ability. Jones retired five of the six batters he faced in the National Title game victory over Texas, striking out two. Good bloodlines. Brother, Rahim Alem, was LSU's starting defensive end and is also an NFL prospect. Nicknamed "Dreads of Doom" due to his dreadlocks.

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Like The Attitude

Don't know exactly what Linval Joseph is going to turn into, but you've got to like his attitude.

"I can play inside or outside, but I like to stop the run," the Giants' second-round defensive tackle said. "I like to hit the running back. I don't know why, but I like to hit the running back, so I feel comfortable inside. But on third down, I like to get outside and hit the quarterback."

As long as there is some sort of hitting going on, Joseph will fulfill his promise of at least adding depth to a middle front that was constantly pushed around last season. Blame some of that on the fact that Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins were coming off microfracture knee surgery, and that Chris Canty got hurt in training camp.

But the fact of the matter is that offensive lines had their way all across the Giants' defensive front. If Joseph lives up to his reputation as a rock-solid run-stopper, at least one area could be stengthened.

That was only made possible after Joseph's freshman season at East Carolina, when back problems caused by carrying 370 pounds resulted in minor surgery and a commitment to weight loss. He's listed at 328 now, but he did his Pro Day at 319, and currently weighs 315 now.

He feels he's at a good weight.

"When I had the weight on, it was hard to breathe, hard to tie my shoes. It was too much. And when I had my back surgery freshman year, I got tunnel vision. I could see a lot of people really didn't care about me. Only three people called me, my mom, my coach, and my little girl. That's when I started caring about life.

"I knew what I had to do and I knew what I had to do to do it."

So he lost the weight, and he doesn't plan on going down any further.

"Right now I'm strong and fast," Joseph said. "Strong and solid. When I'm smaller than 315, I drop off strength-wise."

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Some Video

Here's some Linval Joseph video. About two minutes in, he makes a nice reaching tackle in heavy traffic, so watch for that.


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A Human Post

That's what Jerry Reese called his second-round pick, DT Linval Joseph of East Carolina because of his strength as a nose tackle. But he can also play over the guard, too, giving the Giants flexibility in the middle.

It's kind of an odd pick, given the need at middle linebacker. Two picks, two defensive linemen. And now the Giants have 10 linemen that must compete for four starting spots and a couple of rotation spots. But that could be nine if they decide to launch last year's underachieving Rocky Bernard. Meanwhile, the odds-on favorite for this pick, Penn State's Sean Lee, was taken by division opponent Dallas.

You can look at the Joseph pick two ways. They have certainly added depth to a suspect middle front. But they may also be playing makeup for last year's free agent mistakes that involved pumping millions into defensive players like Chris Canty, Bernard, and Michael Boley. Canty and Boley struggled with injuries much of the season, and Bernard was never productive, so picking Jason Pierre-Paul and Joseph could be a way to address that.

Indeed, Tom Coughlin as much as said that things needed to change on the defensive front, especially in the middle.

"What we were able to do was get that push and keep people from pushing us back to the linebacker depth," Coughlin said of the defense of two and three years ago, when nobody ran on the Giants. "That has to be re-established. Keep some people clean so they can go to the ballcarrier."

They'll be counting on Joseph to step in for that. Reese said the team was particularly impressed with his quickness in his workouts. He, like Pierre-Paul, has limited experience, as he came out as a small-conference junior. But a 4.97 40, a 21 1/2-inch vertical leap, 39 reps at 225 pounds, and a sub 4.7 shuttle run at his Pro Day workout impressed the Giants and had them drawing comparisons to the departed Fred Robbins.

He's not the pass rusher that Robbins was, but both Coughlin and Reese said he's mobile enough to push a guard back into the pocket and create disruption for a quarterback. For straight pass rush, they'll rely on Canty and the rehabbing Jay Alford, who Reese said should play at close to 100 percent following 2009 knee surgery.

They expect Joseph to occupy blockers.

"He's a gigantic man," Reese said. "He's a big anchor, now. He gets low and it's hard to push a big man like him back. One of our guys described him as a human post. He'll give those linebackers a chance to run the ball."

Joseph will compete with Barry Cofield for the nose spot. But he wouldn't go so far as to say his first two picks served as any message to the underperforming defensive line.

"It says we've added some depth to our defensive line," Reese said. "You can't ever have enough big people inside. We have some depth right now, but depth goes quickly in a 16-game season. But right now it looks pretty good."

Joseph was a run-stopper at East Carolina, where he dropped 13 runners for loss while taking down five more for no-gain. Five of those tackles killed scoring drives, all on goal line stands.

Still, it was a curious pick for a team with what looks like a glaring need at another defensive position.

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The Second-Round Pick

Linval Joseph of East Carolina is 6-foot-5, 328, so no problem with size in the middle. Here's the report from NFL Draft Scout.

Pass rush: Looks like a nose tackle but plays like a three-technique, penetrating and getting consistent pressure when fresh. Good closing speed for his size, swallows up quarterbacks that lack great elusiveness. Straight-ahead runner, however with limited lateral quickness, will not break down to change direction in the backfield.

Run defense: Adequate anchoring against double-team blocking due to thick legs and a wide upper body and will move to the ballcarrier after he's through the line. Can be moved and doesn't rip off blocks to stop the play before it starts. Willing to chase down the line and downfield between the tackles if he sees the ball in his area. Susceptible to the cut block. Not strong enough to arm tackle backs in the hole.

Explosion: Surprising quickness off of the snap for his size, gets into his gap in a hurry when fresh. Does not deliver much pop to his opponent with his hands on initial contact, however, relying on athleticism to get the job done.Strength: Does not play as strong as you would think because he plays high and does not consistently use his hands to disengage. Does not reset his hands, get leverage by getting his hands under pads, or attempt to churn his legs after contact to push his man into the backfield.

Tackling: Length and wide body allows him to engulf players in his path. Gives effort to chase, can be effective when well rested. Gets a lot of assisted tackles because of his hustle. Does not sink his hips when approaching the ball, however, and is easily eluded by quicker players in space.

Intangibles: Part of a rotation inside, possibly due to stamina issues. Looks to be winded when playing two consecutive series. Dropped 70 pounds after his freshman season (came to EUC at more than 370 pounds) due to a back injury, regained 20 before 2008 season.

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